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EngineerScotty


While I don't know about (and will not question) Condon's motives for his proposal--I've encountered more than my fair share of urbanists who generally don't like true rapid transit--often because it doesn't benefit them much (or they think it won't). If you live in Pearl and work in a downtown Portland office building, rapid transit to Gresham or Beaverton is about as important to you as a freeway to either place.

But given that Vancouver already has excellent (and well-used) bus service, I'm not sure what the advantage of a streetcar is. Perhaps a capacity improvement on the cheap, especially if you can run two-car trains in mixed traffic. Other than that...

Chris Smith

I would suggest you're focusing on the wrong question. The policy question is not fast or slow, but whether we're facilitating long trips or short trips.

I would suggest that developing urban environments that will work in world of peak oil and global warming will be much better served by emphasizing short trips.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Chris.  The short/long trip distinction does line up with the slow/fast distinction much of the time. People are more sensitive to speed when making longer trips.  But to put it in your terms I have to make the same point:  Transit designed for short trips is competing with walking and cycling.  Transit designed for longer trips within an urban region is competing with freeways.  I'd rather compete with freeways.

Mclawyer

Fascinating post, however, the issue may not be speed at all, but permanence of the system. Busses tend not to produce local development because the bus route can be different tomorrow at very little cost to the bus company. If you're developing land you need long term guarantees the line will still be running.

Streetcars require a certain amount of investment that can't be easily moved and so they inspire more development because there is some confidence the streetcar will run the same route next year. Subways require massive investment and are almost never removed or rerouted, consequently people are happy to make 30+ year investments based on where the lines are, they believe those lines will still be there and operating in 30 years.

Tessa

Chris: egardless of what we're encouraging, UBC students, for instance, need to get to UBC and most can't afford to live in Kerrisdale. They will ride really slow transit across theregion, taking maybe two hours to get there, or for as long as they can they will drive the distance instead, causing more environmental damage.

I would say the rapid regional transit will actually help a region adapt to peak oil without too much disruption in outer neighbourhoods, becuase those outer neighbourhoods will be denser, less car dependent.

And more generally, not directed to that specific comment, I find the slow transit to be rather classist. It's great for those who have all the time in the world, or can afford to live close to wherever they work, but a lot of the people who live in Vancouver don't have that luxury, and are increasingly being forced out of the City of Vancouver to places like New West and Surrey. Yes, it would be great if we all lived that way, or all earned relatively similar living wages, but we really don't, and it's getting worse, not better. Maybe build streetcars after the revolution?

It also doesn't make sense to build streetcars when they're not a mobility improvement, and already we have trolly wires that signal permanence of sort, and they already provide electrical-powered, clean and quiet trolly buses that are often articulated. Why would you spend $2.8 billion to replace that with a streetcar? I don't get it. Why not just expand that network for less?

I also haven't seen any evidence that streetcars, when expanded into areas like 41st street or 4th avenue or anywhere outside of a very inner city neighbourhood like the Pearl, would have the same effect they have close to downtown. Of course a slow transit system will help redevelop the Pearl, but would it work in Gresham if the only connection to downtown Portland was through a streetcar? I rather think it would have the opposite effect of forcing people into their cars.

Thank you for this post, Jarrett. It articulates a frustration I've been feeling much better than I could.

There are areas I like streetcars - for example, the olympic line. But this is overkill.

Jonathan Parker

Another excellent post. Keep it up!

I think streetcars have a role in the range of urban transit alternatives, however it's not the same role as many architects, such as Condon, might prefer. LRT is clearly preferable in most cases where it's physically possible to implement, but there may be circumstances where the corridor somewhat narrow and short, the street clear enough of congestion (or able to mitigate it), and the goals of the project are weighted heavily enough towards serving and or spurring dense redevelopment, that a streetcar option might work better.

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of the First Hill Streetcar in Seattle, where a Link LRT station was planned to be sited, but eventually cancelled due to New Starts cost-effectiveness issues (unfortunate). Being one of the most dense, urban neighborhoods in Seattle, it made sense to plan for a First Hill connection with the Link network at Capitol Hill and downtown. In this application, a streetcar seems like an appropriate choice.

Also perhaps EngineerScotty can comment on the detail I'm missing, I believe that there were a number of other factors that helped drive the market for TOD in the Pearl District beyond just building the streetcar and upzoning. I'm thinking of strong city incentives, the River TIF District and PDC efforts. Hopefully someone will help me on the details, but they were important drivers in what helped create the Pearl District we see today. These are details (along with some great points Jarrett has made here) that often go ignored, but are important factors to consider amidst the often nostalgia-fueled rise of streetcars in the US today.

Jarrett


@Mclawyer. Re the "streetcars signify permanence" argument, "signify" is not the same as "guarantee." After all, there used to be streetcars everywhere, they were all torn up and replaced by buses, so clearly rails in the street don't guarantee permanence, do they? And once you think about that, rails become less effective in "signifying" permanence to you.

If you want permanent transit, look for a permanent transit market -- a long, straight corridor with lots of density all along it especially at the ends. Transit on 41st Avenue is already permanent because the street is a great transit market, and it's a great transit market because of the pattern of development that's already there. I make the same point about Portland's Hawthorne Blvd. or Seattle's Broadway.

EngineerScotty

Of course, in the case of the Broadway corridor, there are no freeways to compete with--nor are there any likely to arise. (I suppose someone cross the Fraser, take BC91 into Richmond, and then cross back into Vancouver and hit Marine Drive--but that's WAY out of the way).

If Vancouver still had lots of opportunities for infill, and the purpose of a SkyTrain extension was to encourage sprawl out in the eastern burbs as an alternate, the pro-streetcar arguments would make more sense. An argument can be made that rapid transit--like freeways-- encourages sprawl, of course; but a lot depends on what gets placed along the stops. With a rapid transit line, one can add dense sprawl that discourages auto use; with a freeway, not so much.

But the corridor in question is already highly dense, and there's already a significant demand for crosstown traffic--one which interferes with those wanting shorter trips, who often find the busses full.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Scotty.  I think the simplest formulation is that a rapid transit line whose outer stations are nothing but parking lots does encourage sprawl, because these stations add capacity for what are still car-based trips.  Early BART encouraged sprawl.  SkyTrain encouraged station-area density.  Note that there's only one major Park-and-Ride in the whole SkyTrain system, at Scott Road station, and it's only there because it's in a floodplain so nothing denser can be built!

EngineerScotty


The Portland Streetcar probably made the Pearl a more attractive neighborhood than without--the neighborhood is not car friendly, and the Streetcar put some key destinations within reach for someone without an auto; destinations for which the pre-existing bus service was less convenient).

But in general, the transit in TOD is only as good as the access it provides, and the key factors in determining the desirability of a neighborhood are usually things other than transit. The Pearl is desirable because of the close proximity to upscale shopping, culture, and the other amenities of downtown; not because of the Streetcar. Simply putting a high-rise next to a train line in the middle of nowhere is not the recipe for a successful development (or a successful transit line, if the development is intended to be a key driver of demand).

Chris Smith

I'd rather compete with freeways.

One of the interesting results from the modeling Portland's regional government Metro did for the most recent Regional Transportation Plan is that the "heavy investment in LRT" scenario did NOT produce the lowest VMT. It appears that allowing people to make long trips on LRT means they live further from jobs and services and their non-LRT auto trips are therefore also longer.

I think it's sound policy that long trips, regardless of mode, should be more expensive, either financially or in terms of time.

I think of Streetcar as an extender for pedestrian trips.

EngineerScotty

One other point. There's tons of land around the University which potentially could be used for additional housing (and related services) for students and staff. Reduction of the need for trips is always a good idea.

Of course, I suspect that touching any of it is a nonstarter...

Edmund Carlson

I think that a good part of what we are seeing with this discussion is the oftentimes very large gap between transport thinking and land use thinking. In my experience there are an awful lot of traditional land use planners for whom transport is, at best, an afterthought. Transport "planners" by contrast, who are very heavily skewed toward engineering and operational backgrounds have a similar tendency to look at moving people, with all related issues pushed aside, into other fields. It's not a bad thing that this isolation is starting to change, but this apparently emerging speed vs urbanism dichotomy is a sign of some real difficulty merging the schools of thought.

I would argue that there is some real truth to the suggestion that high speed long distance rapid transit does not (at least directly) produce the kind of mid density, continuous, urban development we are targeting. Nonetheless there are strong land use arguments for true rapid transit and that the transport considerations must not be treated as being in opposition to the typical planning vision of an urban community.

While a streetcar is a lot better at creating dense neo-urban corridors than a rapid transit subway it does not, as has been discussed here, provide a service fundamentally different from a local bus. High speed, long distance rapid transit by contrast does do something unique, and goes a lot farther toward addressing the needs auto drivers and (in most cases) existing travel demand. Ultimately I don't see the land use question as being an either or choice. We are not looking at competing visions of urban form, but at different methods for different goals. The local streetcar is a means of guiding the form of localized development whereas the regional rapid transit addresses the overall urban and regional structure.

Which is more important is a largely separate question both in practice and academically, but I would caution anyone looking at a comparison such as Condon's to consider what the real capacity for corridor style development is. No one has built enhanced local service on anything like the scale Condon's map indicates for Vancouver, and local bus service certainly hasn't gone any great lengths to reshape corridors. There is a very real possibility of diminishing returns for investments such as streetcars, particularly if they are implemented in rapid succession. A rapid transit line in an established corridor such as Broadway at a bare minimum will significantly improve the attractiveness of transit in a major demand corridor while still providing opportunities for intensification and redevelopment.

Ultimately I think that Condon's argument falls into an old trap of trying to set regional and local goals against each other. Particularly in land use and urban form/structure issues this is simply not the case. Local form is supported by regional structure, which in turn complements the local. If local and regional transit are seen as competing products it is not only transportation service that is harmed, but the ability to use transit as a land use tool.

Chris Smith

I think that a good part of what we are seeing with this discussion is the oftentimes very large gap between transport thinking and land use thinking.

Let's all be community planners. Neither transportation nor land use planning delivers a holistic result on its own.

While a streetcar is a lot better at creating dense neo-urban corridors than a rapid transit subway it does not, as has been discussed here, provide a service fundamentally different from a local bus.

Absolutely true. But what streetcar does that a bus does not is attract private investment to develop at high densities. It's been hypothesized that a correctly configured bus service could do the same, but I don't believe it and no one has produced an example, even though North America boasts far more bus routes than streetcar lines.

Jarrett

@Edmund. Excellent comment. Let me question this, though:

local bus service certainly hasn't gone any great lengths to reshape corridors

How, exactly, do we know that? How would we test or refute that proposition? Doesn't Vancouver's existing density, in many corridors, rely on the intense mobility that the bus system provides? If so, doesn't that mean that when you build a new apartment building you're counting on the bus system to be part of your mobility offering? If so, doesn't that make the new development "bus-responsive" to some degree, in the sense that transit service of some kind is a necessary condition, and bus service is the transit that exists?

The notion that buses can't "shape" development would seem to need testing against all the development that does happen along bus lines, and would need to posit that all that development would have happened anyway if there were no transit at all. I've never seen a streetcar advocate make that argument in detail, mostly, I suspect, because they just haven't been required to.

Chris Smith

A developer looks at a bus route and says "they could move that tomorrow". He or she looks at a streetcar line and says "those rails are going to have cars on them for a long time". Investment proceeds accordingly.

The Pearl District is a perfect example of how streetcar increased density. The development agreement between the City and the developer was quite explicit. The more investment the City put into infrasture (the first hurdle was removing the Lovejoy viaduct, the second was the streetcar), the more density the developer was required to build (not that his arm needed twisting). I speak from first hand experience - I serve on the Portland Streetcar, Inc. board of directors with many of those developers.

But absent streetcar, the Pearl probably would have developed at rowhouse densities. That's what the first pre-streetcar-commitment products looked like.

Alon Levy

I don't get why Vancouver would want to emulate Portland, a city with lower density, lower transit use, and higher per-rider transit construction cost.

Now, you could make an argument in favor of Calgary as a model. Calgary's transit mode share is barely behind Vancouver's, and its per-rider transit construction costs are the lowest I know of in a first-world city, at one quarter of Vancouver's. However, the C-Train emphasizes speed, running at 80 km/h outside downtown serving stations spaced more than a kilometer apart. In addition, Calgary's cost-cutting techniques require reserving ROW near freeways and freight railroads in advance of urban development, so that trains can run on physically separated routes while remaining at grade. Vancouver does not have this option on the Broadway corridor.

Tellingly, short-hop tram systems are rarely used as the primary form of transit in first-world cities (Melbourne is an exception, partly). A lot of cities use modern light rail, and a lot of cities use trams as a lower-cost complement for rapid transit, LRT, or commuter rail, though; in those cities tram function as downtown circulators, circumferential links, or rapid transit feeders. A similar tram in Vancouver would just serve the downtown peninsula, or else run circumferentially to feed Skytrain.

Multimodal Man

Excellent post. My read of transit books written in the streetcar era suggest that streetcars did really well at first because their speed was better than walking (the dominant mode for millienia; horses were for the elite). I emphatically agree that we do no good for peak oil, sustainability or healthy communities to make transit an alternative to walking. What transit ought to be doing is extending the range of the pedestrian. A hierarchy of service types that provide a robust network with the base mode of walking (and cycling too!) should be the framework design, rather than proliferating routes that want to restore a blip in history when streetcars was the best mode (1889 to 1919?). Certainly not all service ought to be freeway fast, but dismissing rapid transit categorically as unnecessary in the future merely obviates any argument for transit.

alexjonlin

I disagree that we need just local streetcars, and I disagree that we need just regional rapid transit. We need a combination of both in order to serve the whole population and to prepare for the decline of cars as peak oil comes in the next few years.
Streetcars are very important for developing local corridors and providing everyone with access to high-quality transit. Streetcars have higher capacity and use less energy than buses, and of course attract far more riders and TOD in almost every instance. They are far less expensive than grade- or even just traffic-separated transit, and therefore can easily serve all areas of the city that don't necessarily warrant an expensive rapid transit line.
Meanwhile, rapid transit is extremely important for regional mobility. Yes, we need to develop local neighborhoods more and encourage people to work closer to home, but in a diverse city, people always will need to get to other locations in the region, whether it's every day or once a month, and we need to serve those people.
So basically, the best way to serve the most people is to use a combination of streetcars and rapid transit. This will be able to accommodate the massive movement from cars to transit that is anticipated for the decades to come.

Multimodal Man

Chris argues on behalf of developers. Another interesting fact about streetcar decisions of the past that 1) lines moved a lot (we don't appreciate that when we go the library and see the system map of 191x and imagine how cool it was without appreciating the routes that were axed the year before) and 2)the land speculation deals related to streetcar of bygone eras didn't always work out, most often because when the speculator extended the line and sold lots the business plan didn't think through depreciation of capital and operating costs very well.

I would recommend a fantastic book by the late Delos F. Wilcox entitled "Analysis of the electric railway problem." To deal with the crisis in transit funding of the day, experts recommended increasing operating speeds (stop removal), eliminating redundant routes, and other changes that I see Jarrett echoing 90 years later.

Zach Shaner

Jarrett, spot on. In another city Condon may have a point. But unless we're talking about deforesting Pacific Spirit Park to build dense condos or using eminent domain to forcibly desuburbanize huge swaths of Point Grey, Kerrisdale, and Dunbar, then travel time to UBC will continue to be the most important criterion for east-west transit in Vancouver. And thank you for the attention given to 41st Ave in this post, as it is too often neglected.

Multimodal Man

alexjonlin:
Electric Trolley Buses are lighter (by more than half) thana streetcar which bears on energy efficiency (notice how small the Prius is?). Yes, rail traction reduces friction, but that advantage is greatest when traveling long distances without stopping. San Fran ETBs are 25% more energy efficient when looking at energy consumed per passenger mile (so factoring for loads) than the Tacoma Link "Light Rail" (a streetcar with farther stop spacing). And that's with the ETBs in San Fran doing major hills and stopping in more traffic than the Tacoma Link. Regarding capacity: It is a measure of system constraint; it does not attract passengers. I'd rather have 10 minute frequency bus service that has the same hourly throughput capacity as 15-minute streetcar service.

Alex_AniPac

Re the Paterson Station area:

One stop east of Paterson is the Metrotown Mall Station. It is the 2nd biggest mall in Canada, with 470 stores including 2 large supermarkets.
That might explain the lack of retail around Paterson station.

BTW - Here is the area in front of Paterson station in google street view. I don't think it is that bad: http://bit.ly/9voQEx

Jarrett

@Alex. Patterson doesn't need to compete with Metrotown. But if I were going to live next to a SkyTrain station, I'd expect at least a convenience store at the station where I could buy a litre of milk on the way home. Better designed station areas, such as Joyce, are more like the complete communities we need to be building.

Richard

I would look at Portland's claim that the streetcar "generated" all that development with a real grain of salt. There are many areas in and near downtown Vancouver that have higher densities than the areas around Portland's streetcar that have no rail transit nearby, streetcar or otherwise. Yaletown actually got a Canada Line station pretty much at the end of its redevelopment.

Portland is trying to create a streetcar manufacturing industry so it has a real vested interest in promoting the streetcar. They do a very good job at selling themselves and various projects like the streetcar. More power to them.

Still, I do think that streetcars would be great on some streets, just not everywhere. And especially not for high demand regional corridors like Broadway.

Not much of a challenge to dismantle Condon's studies, they seem to crumble on their own. Regarding his case for the streetcar being more cost effective. The study didn't showing cost per passenger or cost per passenger mile. If it did, it would have shown that the capital cost per passenger km was greater for the Portland Streetcar (12,000 passengers per day) than the proposed SkyTrain to UBC assuming 150,000 passengers per year.

Tessa

Everyone seems to be making the case that streetcars always increasey density around them. Now, I'm not saying that's not true - i expect the streetcar did help in Portland, as well as there were subsidies in the beginning to convince developers to build big - but I also have never seen a study of any other streetcar corridor, anywhere else in the U.S.

I'd especially be interested in a streetcar designed similar to what is proposed by Mr. Condon, that is it serves a corridor similar to current buses rather than a circulator downtown or for a short spur in an inner-city neighbourhood (i.e. the south lake union streetcar).

I'd also be curious to hear Melbourne's story, as they have streetcars that still operate in many ways as the backbone of local service throughout much of the city. I expect that when it's spread out over such a large area that streetcars don't have much more developmental incentive than buses do. We just don't notice how much of a benefit our local transit system is when it's so spread out, I think.

For example, look at central lonsdale, a corridor that is densifying quite quickly, with several new towers going up, yet it relies on bus service, and ugly dirty diesel at that.

Good comments on this post.

mike0234

Alon, Vancouver does have a physically separate rail corridor parallel to Broadway. It's only three short blocks (east-west blocks are long) north of Broadway. The problem is that it's at the bottom of a very steep hill, which doesn't show on the map, so it cannot serve Central Broadway itself.

Vancouver's neighbourhood centres are separated like islands by seas of single-family residential, parks, and water. The neighbourhood centres most often take the shape of linear streetcar suburban retail strips that didn't get big enough to fuse together (except partially on Broadway). This means that walking between neighbourhoods feels longer than it should, and walking within neighbourhoods feels shorter than it should.

A tramway system in Vancouver should try to connect the centres of these strips together, like a bridge between these islands. There are several streets in Vancouver and its suburbs where the centres of these retail strips are lined up in a row, Broadway included, and these would make for the best tram corridors. There is less need to have frequent stops in the direction of the tram because the generally high quality of the retail strips increases the walkable catchment area in the direction of the strip.

The physically separate rail corridor north of Broadway could be the (somewhat) express segment of a tramway that runs (somewhat) more locally on a couple streets on the west side, Broadway included, and it could be a (somewhat) limited-stop segment of a tramway up the Arbutus rail corridor to Kerrisdale and Marpole (both of which are very much islands).


On a bit of separate topic, there has been very talk about how, with a very short spur, the Broadway tram would provide for a transfer-free line between UBC and Downtown.

Jarrett

Mike. The idea of a city as a set of islands leads back, interestingly, to this post:

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/04/should-we-plan-transit-for-bikeability.html

mike0234

Many of the best tram cities are also great biking cities. I guess this is because the tram tends to direct growth into a string of islands, spaced too far for walking but close enough for biking.

I think it's similar with regional rail systems, except that the islands are mostly too distant for biking. Regional rail systems tend to be paired with trams, though.

Jarrett

Professor Condon has sent me the following as an email. I'll take up some of these issues in future posts. -- Jarrett

Re: these comments.

I appreciate very much the depth of these comments, even though i am disappointed that the range of opinions presented is narrow.

Perhaps reading the research work we have produced would help. I hope you all can take a look at:

http://www.sxd.sala.ubc.ca/8_research/sxd_FRB07Transport.pdf.

Our work on this question is based on three principles, and only if you accept them as valid would you consequently accept our conclusions as valid. The three principles are:

1. Short trips are better than long trips.
2. Low carbon is better than high carbon.
3. Low cost is better than high cost.

These are common sense and widely accepted principles for sustainable communities, if not for transportation planning.

You see, our research centre is not a transportation research think tank. We are a sustainable communities think tank. So for us, movement is only an element, albeit a key one, of a future sustainable city. Increasingly we are trying to understand what it would take to reduce our per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) by at least 80 percent, in conformance with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) targets.

So for us a diesel bus, that produce as much GHG per passenger as many cars, is not a great option.


We also get nervous about the amount of GHG produced by the concrete required for a 12 KM tunnel, an amount equal to about ten million car trips to UBC and back.

Thus I hope it is clear to readers of this excellent blog that for us the Broadway question is not primarily a question of how to get from point a. to point b.; but is rather a question of "what does a sustainable Vancouver region look like? And how does the decision about what to do on Broadway either move us towards such an end, or away from it?".

Patrick

voony

To vancouver people dismissing value of speed, it is good to invite them to have a reality check at the Braodway corrdior:

On this corridor, rider have choice between express bus (99) and local (9):
the 99 uses articulated bus and can't cope with the demand when the 9 is doing OK with 40 footer bus.

so that is tale telling...all the rest is blahblah

mezzanine

WRT to Patrick Condon and his 3 principles, to me it comes down to a incredible denial of priorities. Of course I want to be good to the environemnt, I do want access in my neibourhood and 'low cost is better than high cost', but:

1) There is 1 UBC and like it or not it was built at the tip of a pennisula jutting out into the sea. I get antsy as I do see a potential restriction of mobility to UBC as a literal and figurative restiction of access to post-secondary education to people who would live outside of any proposed tram network to campus. and in this day of satelite campuses and on-line schooling, call me old fashioned, but direct physical access to the libraries, hospitals, classes and clinics is important.

2) building LRT that will mirror bus service? where much of that service is zero-emmission trolley bus service? how is that low-cost? what more would you get out of tram that you can't get from trolley?

3) and really, I would agree with engineerscotty with wondering about your motivations. you are making striking conclusions and statements from reports that are opaque. How do I explain when you go onto local blogs and say this:

"The BC auditor general report indicated that the cost per trip on the Canada line was 25 dollars per trip and will stay that way until the bonds are amortized. "

http://www.livableregion.ca/blog/blogs/index.php?blog=5&title=broadway_rapid_transit_alternatives_lack&page=1&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1&disp=single#c2151

How did you come to this? what ridership do you base it on? why can't i find that auditor's report when it should be in the public domain and searchable?

really, when you say things like this you sound like vancouver's own 'zweisystem', but people will believe you because you are a UBC professor. :-(

mezzanine

oops, to clarify, EngineerScotty didn't question your motivation (first post). I suppose I am.

Alon Levy

Condon's just quoting a previous study he's authored, which isn't especially rigorous... The part about a diesel bus producing "as much GHG per passenger as many cars" is Demographia-league research. It all depends on how packed Vancouver intends the 99-B to be. If the average bus has 5 people, it'll be better than a single-occupant SUV, but that's about it. If it has 50 people, it'll outperform even small cars with 5 people in them.

The freight corridor has three problems, besides the hills. First, unlike Calgary, Vancouver never pre-planned its at-grade transit corridors. So it may be much more expensive to use the line for LRT than the C-Train, potentially not much cheaper than driverless metro. Second, the line only goes to Arbutus before turning south. And third, it's not even a continuous east-west line - it requires dead-ending into a siding and reversing direction.

I like the idea of $2,400/rider transit as much as anyone, but Calgary really is unique there. Dense cities without extra greenfield corridors do not build this cheaply. For example, the Paris trams cost $4,000-$7,000 per rider, where the existing trams are at the lower end and the projections for trams under construction tend toward the higher end. This isn't much lower than the driverless Line 14, which cost about $7,000/rider (all in 2009 dollars).

(Needless to say, I'm perfectly willing to change my mind if someone posts references to low tram costs in other first-world cities. I'd prefer examples not from Spain, where subways are ridiculously cheap; if LRT is even cheaper there, it says more about Spain than about LRT.)

Peter Smith

good post!

i would generally agree with Professor Condon that speed is overrated.

there's even a small part of me that thinks that speed is a bad thing -- and not just some super-high speed within urban contexts, but in general. time and place should remain meaningful. the closer we get to Star Trek-like teleportation, the more i think we're losing something important, even if i can't quite articulate it (yet).

the 'development question' is overwrought -- i think it's only semi-interesting to talk about in that it could possibly be used to finance/pay for transit (value capture).

the operational expense of driverless metro vs. probably-not-driverless (at-grade) streetcar/tram/light rail would be a concern for me, and as you've mentioned many times on this blog before, the frequency of service for driverless metros can be awesome comparatively. The promise of high frequency and low operating expense overhead for driverless metro makes me somewhat sympathetic to the idea of making people travel underground, or considering allowing them to travel at heights.

that said, i like the idea of concentrating on removing the need for cars in the urban context -- and that, unfortunately, means local (what you would call 'slow') motorized transit. said another way, improving the quality of life in any city can best be achieved by removing (the need for) cars, and streetcars do this, i surmise, better than rapid transit, so let's build streetcars instead of rapid transit for now.

i think we're in a bit of an emergency at the moment -- a crisis of democracy in America -- probably creeping up on a real fascist-type system (a la late Weimar Germany -- massive joblessness/frustration/anger, open racism/scapegoating, talk of 'the collapse of the center' is now hitting the mainstream press, etc.), and that means we need to restore public spaces _quickly_ so we can start having meaningful communities again where we can redevelop a rich public/civic life as quickly as possible -- future economic shocks could just tip us over in the wrong direction. that'd be one of my main arguments for building a streetcar network right now as opposed to possibly later, if at all. the subways can wait -- it's too dangerous to wait for improving the quality of life in our cities.

my ideal transit scenario would also be very high quality transit and stations (which precludes the use of any/all buses/BRT), walk/bike sheds of a mile or more radius from each station, bike facilities at the station, but i would set stop spacing at about 2,500 feet (1/2 mile) -- that gives us a good balance of local transit with moderate speed/efficiency.

no big/dangerous/motorized vehicle should be allowed to travel (at grade) at more than 20 MPH in an urban area/where there are people. maybe we'll eventually get driverless at-grade trams -- via collision avoidance systems -- something that certainly seems possible, even likely. and if not, people will need jobs, so maybe having operators is a good idea. we can't financialize the entire economy.

the 'permanence' argument, too, is overwrought. developers never liked rails because they signified permanence -- they liked rails because they signified tolerable/upscale/dignified/yuppie-ish/placemaking transit.

i'm skeptical of even express trains. i'm tolerating the development of high speed rail -- and even voted to tax myself for it -- because i figured it'd be the best way to help us achieve low speed rail. there's an added benefit that it could help us do away with flying a bit -- something that seems a bit anti-human to me in various ways. the way i see it, if you want to travel relatively long distances in relatively short amounts of times, using motorized transport, you should pay exponentially more for it.

streetcar? cheap tickets.
metro/subway? not-so-cheap tickets.
commuter rail? medium.
express commuter rail? expensive.
high speed rail? really expensive.
airplane? most mere mortals can't afford this.

It appears that allowing people to make long trips on LRT means they live further from jobs and services and their non-LRT auto trips are therefore also longer.

this would be one of my main arguments against rapid transit - and seems to be one of Professor Condon's key criteria for sustainability. if convenient to quality rapid transit, people will travel _massive_ distances -- totally rational on an individual basis, and totally crazy/unsustainable/undesirable on a societal basis.

Doesn't Vancouver's existing density, in many corridors, rely on the intense mobility that the bus system provides?

my guess is that Vancouver's streetcar network drove original density/development, and when replaced by buses (probably using the same route numbers), these just happened to be where the existing major corridors/arterials were, so that's where (re)development stayed.

that said, i think the development/density questions are overplayed:
1) densification will happen even if you provide no new transit service at all
2) new transit service probably just draws development dollars/projects away from other areas -- which could have gone towards the development of more complete neighborhoods
3) we need urban growth boundaries anyways, etc.

Not much of a challenge to dismantle Condon's studies, they seem to crumble on their own.

i didn't notice much crumble. in any case, i'm always arguing for injecting a bit of humanity/qualitative reasoning into The Great Transit Debate, so looking at statistics like cost per passenger per mile per cookie doesn't appeal to me. but, if avoiding stats like that is how we got to this awful state of affairs, then we probably need to start using it a lot more.

Many of the best tram cities are also great biking cities.

if this is true, i have a theory as to why that is the case -- two parts: 1) cyclists are deathly afraid of buses, but we generally find streetcars to be non-scary -- thus, more folks ride in cities where there are relatively fewer buses (Toronto, I would argue, has great promise because of this), and 2) cities that cared enough about their citizens to hear their pleas to hold onto their streetcars probably have that 'je ne sais quoi' (good government? respect for human dignity? etc.?) that leads to generally better urban/civic planning/design that is just friendlier to humans who are not in cars.

Paul C

@EngineerScotty

"One other point. There's tons of land around the University which potentially could be used for additional housing (and related services) for students and staff. Reduction of the need for trips is always a good idea.

Of course, I suspect that touching any of it is a nonstarter..."

If you are referring to the Endowment Lands just to the East of UBC. Developing that is already a complete nonstarter. There are a lot of trails that people like to walk, run and bike through. Basically it would be akin to building in park land.

In regards to Jarrets excellent blog on slow vs fast transit.

I've always viewed building rapid transit as being equal to building a freeway. Both are designed to move large amounts of people over long distances. Although rapid transit in general would move more people than a freeway.

Now a street car would be like you driving down a local artery. You have to contend with slower traffic and other cross traffic. So while both would get you to where you want to go. Your trip would be longer.

What I get from people like Peter Condon and those who propose a street car along a corridor like Broadway or even 41st Ave. They seem to envision that everything that everyone would need would be relatively local to where they live. Which in a dream world would be nice. We all would have relative short travel patterns. And getting onto a nice street car to go down the street. Wouldn't be all that bad. But most people don't live locally to where they work or go to school if we are talking about post secondary students. Most people are forced to travel longer distances because for one reason or another they can't live close to where they work. There is also the factor that even if you lived close to where you work today. It doesn't mean you would be like that for the rest of your working career.

As Tessa mentioned above. I get the same feeling that those who propose a street car. Seem to have all day to commute. Where as most people really don't have the time or luxury to do so and just want to get to where they want to go as soon as possible. If that means driving a car they will.

Paul C

@ Jarrett

In regards to 41st Ave. I wanted to say thank you for bringing that avenue up. I've lived my entire life a block from it. So it is personal route to me. It is why I would love to see rapid transit on Broadway. Which would hopefully remove some of the UBC bound people from routes like 41 and 43 that go along 41st Ave.

Jarrett

Paul C's comment about existing travel patterns is interesting. Condon writes as though the way to make people's trips shorter is to offer them slower transit options. The real solution to making people's trips shorter lies in land use patterns, which means not just land use planning but also the locational decisions of individuals and institutions.

It would be interesting to live in a world in which all institutions were responsible for the impacts of the trips that they generate. In such a world, UBC might decide that it's not practical to be attracting huge numbers of students to their distant promontory. Perhaps they'd analyze their offerings and shift 80% of what they do to a new campus on the east side of Vancouver, near the centroid of where their students can afford to live. The windswept tip of Point Grey might be reduced to a research centre, populated only by graduate students who live in UBC's on-campus housing offerings and senior faculty who can live nearby. It would probably feel like a monastery.

That sounds preposterous, but I suggests it's exactly as preposterous as Condon's plan to run slow streetcars everywhere. (In fact, it may be a necessary corollary of that plan, since so many of the practical problems of Condon's plan are due to the UBC market.) The world may indeed force such preposterous solutions on us, but I remain unclear how we get there in a democracy.

Mike H

Replacing an existing bus system with streetcars of the same unit size seems very peculiar. It should be obvious that the advantage of the streetcars from an operational standpoint is larger capacity, and moreover, flexibility of the capacity, as the rail vehicles can be joined into trains. Converting a bus line to a streetcar/light rail line makes sense when there demand exceeds the capacity of the buses.

Additionally, ride quality is almost always better on rails and, as has been noted in the comments, the permanence of the rail line attracts riders and investment. The additional ridership may make conversion to a streetcar line sensible even when the bus service on the same route is not overcrowded.

Building a streetcar system that has the same capacity and frequence as a bus system seems to be a waste of money, even if the cost of running the streetcars is slightly less. There's plenty of examples of all of this in Europe in places where the traditional streetcar lines have been preserved in the same city alongside more modern, faster light rail / tram-train type lines.

dejv

Condon's priciples would make sense, if:
- they're applied to all (powered) modes of transport equally
- housing policies are set to encourage people to live close to their destinations

There's inherent problem with my second point, that in single household, there are at least two people that are likely to commute to distant destinations, making it expensive hampers economic activity as whole.

Also, short trips on slow transit aren't necessarily more energy-intensive than longer trips on rapid transit. Acceleration is one of the biggest energy drains even with regenerative braking and rapid transit tends to coast for bigger percentage of it's route.

I've grown up and I continue to live in post-communist city with great tram network. Based on my experience, I would warn against mixed-traffic streetcar on such long route. Even reserved-lane tram with average 450 m (1450 ft) reaches only 20 km/h (12 mph) average speed, with those dense stops, it easily drops below 15 km/h. That would mean 35-50 minute travel times along the corridor, essentially the same as 99-B buses provide now (if WP is to be trusted), the only benefit would be higher capacity.

There seem to be two cost-effective ways to implement fast transit:
* build fully grade-separated rapid transit line, preferably driverless SkyTrain
* calm auto traffic on broadway and build at-grade light rail with widely spaced stops. To maintain permeability of ROW for pedestrians, maximum speeds must be kept below 55-60 km/h (35-40 mph), stops have to be therefore widely spaced (750 m / 2450 ft or bigger) and pedestrian crossings must be tweaked to force people look in direction of oncoming train where speeds are high (example, station, ped & auto crossing where speeds are low; this particular street was converted to this shape from 4-lane artery)

John

Another thing to consider is the market size for development in a region. I think there is a finite demand for new housing units and commercial development that is largely based on population growth and to some extent relocation of the existing population. The development will occur somewhere. A transit line can focus some of the development along that line or at the stations. However, building 20 streetcar lines doesn't increase the number of new housing units that can be reasonably constructed and absorbed by the market in the region. You will likely end up with one or two streetcar lines that attract a lot of new development and the rest of them that don't, at least not in the short term.

EngineerScotty

A question which may serve as a Rorschach test for those in this discussion:

Right now, it takes it takes ~45 minutes to get from UBC to Commercial/Broadway, potentially longer if the busses are full and passengers have to wait for a follower. To what extent, is this a problem?

voony

Patrick Condon's principle

1. Short trips are better than long trips.
2. Low carbon is better than high carbon.
3. Low cost is better than high cost.

are certainly good one, but they concerns comunities' means to reach a goal rather than the goal itself

Goal should be more probably human wellbeing, and that is eventually achieved by good access to education opportunities, healthcare,...

then as much as you would like live in a "closed" communities, you will have to recognize that our society is increasingly complex requiring as much as specialization of its agents.

the Patrick Condon chair could not exist in a simple world. When it exists, this chair is incredibily specialized, and a "human sized community is not large enough to support it...so you need to shuttle student of other communities or bar them this access to education.

for healthcare, it is the same, specialty surgery involve longer travel pattern than the family doctor, and patient care suppose he and his family can have good access to it.

increasing efficiency of our society require increasing contribution of its agents (husband and wife both working) with increasing specialty, like Jarret is an example of, which also reduce the work opportunities on a constant geographic area: so to keep all thing equal, you need to increase the labor market opportunity for the people...

and so on...

All this seems to be ignored by Patrick Condon study...

mezzanine

@ EngineerScotty, capacity (which is a function of speed) is also a major issue, look at this pic of the line up to the B-line BRT at the skytrain terminus:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmckibbinphotos/4429658445/
Credit: Chris McKibbin

There would be 3 lines like this, about ~20-30 metres long, corresponding to each bus door at rush hour.

And remember, the M-line will be further extended eastward by the evergreen line, so broadway corridor use will further intensify.

CroMagnon

Great post!

Of course, many of my previous comments have already alluded to this point as some may realize.

One point: Condon's premise of short trips versus long trips is invalid because it assumes how things should be versus how things actually are. A preference for short trips versus long trips ignores peoples' sets of destinations relative to their origins. When making future plans for transportation, one simply cannot assume a head of time that the basic travel patterns are to be different, esp. within a pre-existing urban fabric (i.e. not new growth of land area). Given a large enough and dense enough metro area, the average trip length will eventually spread out to the point where rapid transit is an inevitability on the grounds of sheer operational efficiency alone.

Additionally: the premise of low cost is better than high cost. Of course lower cost is preferable to higher cost. But this is stacking the deck again b/c cost is being confounded with benefit. A project with lower cost is given a higher benefit based simply on nothing more than costing less--what good is that?! All things being equal the cost-benefit ratio will ALWAYS favor the cheaper option in this scenario. The benefits or superiority of a system must be determined as an output of its costs. Is Condon a sociologist?! ;)

Alex_AniPac

@Jarrett

RE: Paterson Station
[b]
There is a convenience store, and coffee shop at the end of Olive ave. 300 meters away from Paterson station. Right where all those towers are clustered.[/b] Is it exactly where the station is? No. But it is right where everyone lives, next to, or under their condo towers.

see it here: http://bit.ly/cOavMg

And there is another little mall across the street from that, under some more towers. And as I said before, the 2nd largest mall in Canada is a couple minutes on foot down Kingsway.

http://bit.ly/aQx128


Now, south of the tracks the neighbourhood is older, so there is a weird mix of single family, medium density, and towers. And if you just walk down south down Paterson Ave bordering the parkland, it matches up more with what you say.
But even then, they can't be more than a 5 minute walk away from the newer north side retail. And if you wander around a bit more you can see that even this older neighbourhood has their own little convenience store.

http://bit.ly/d0fz09


M1EK

"I think of Streetcar as an extender for pedestrian trips."

People who repeat this talking point should be forced to explain why they also don't think of local bus as an extender for pedestrian trips. (I've certainly used it that way enough times in my life!)

CroMagnon

A streetcar is only an extender for pedestrian trips if it comes very frequently, like at least every 15 minutes or more often. Most able bodied people won't stand around waiting for 20 minutes if they just missed the last one, b/c standing usually takes more energy than walking. I believe most people will take the streetcar/bus for long trips of 3+ miles which are beyond typical walking range anyway. Beyond 4 miles or so subway type service is superior anyway in heavily trafficked corridors.

Justin N

This discussion has become very Vancouver-specific, and while I love Vancouver (not a resident, but a very admiring visitor), Condon seems to be using a local example to make a global point. Even if we were to accept that streetcars on a vast scale make sense for Vancouver (which I don't), that doesn't mean that regional rapid transit is necessarily dead everywhere.

I'm writing from Riverside, a suburb of Los Angeles. One of the biggest challenges to transit adoption here is the regional nature of our development, employment and socialization patterns. People here think nothing of living an hour's drive from where they work, and similarly nothing of driving an hour in the other direction for dinner with friends. Our lives, as southern Californians, are in many cases spread out across the LA basin. (Personally, I live very locally, but I'm the exception, not the rule.) When thinking about my city in a post-automobile world, density plays a role, certainly, but a regional rapid transit network will be crucial. Today, one of the biggest holes in our transit network is the regional level- local bus connections are plentiful, but the ability to get across the region quickly is very limited, and because of this the auto continues to reign supreme. To transition our lifestyles to more sustainable ones, either we will build a better regional transportation network, or we will be car-dependent for far longer, and suffer the loss much more than we otherwise would.

Jeff

Portland just approved a Streetcar Master Plan that looks similar to the proposal you point to above. It's really unfortunate that we'll either replace buses with streetcar, or run them side by side, for exactly the reasons you point out. Yet here, nobody's even talking about why we might want that, except to point to how it's historically consistent with the city's image.

ws

"1. Short trips are better than long trips."

Tell that to the kid who goes to school and can't afford a place to stay anywhere near UBC (I am assuming this based off of what people tell me about UBC and its neighborhood).

Short trips are already served by local buses, anyways, and I agree on a very visceral level that shorter trips are best, but the urban system is so, so, so much more complex than that!

"We also get nervous about the amount of GHG produced by the concrete required for a 12 KM tunnel, an amount equal to about ten million car trips to UBC and back."

This is where I don't get streetcar rail fanactics. How much in terms of GHG will be outputted from a lifecycle analysis of rail ties snaking through the city on an already existing electrical bus system?

I saw on your paper, simple surface rail was hardly lower than a bus system, and your point for defeating an underground system was the concrete used for the tunnel.

However, you have to look at it in terms of not the final GHG emissions, but normalize the figure of how many passengers are going to use the system.

I can say right now, not as many passengers are going to use a slower system as much, and many people would use the faster, grade separated system.

The best argument is by Jarrett:"Slow transit competes with bikes and walking. Fast transit competes with highways"

That has to be the most cogent argument I've heard about the two different systems, especially for "sustainability" arguments.

I will be using that argument more, so I hope he doesn't mind if I steal it.


PS:

Why does Vancouver -- an urban planners' wet dream -- need a streetcar to correct market inefficiencies for land-uses?

PSS:

Can someone correct me on this, and I might be getting a bit picky and corrective. It's not "carbon", it's "carbon dioxide". If you're referring to other GHG's, can't we all just agree to say GHGs?

Scott

In regard to: "Clearly, the Portland Streetcar drove not just a dramatic densification of the inner city areas it served, but a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use urban form where many of life's needs are within walking distance. That much is undeniable."

I, for one, deny it! I lived in Portland from the era (not so long ago!) when the places now lumped together under the moniker of "Pearl District" were known by their old names of Skid Row, China Town, and "all those old warehouses out toward the station," up until the streetcar went in. And I would say that density came first, with the streetcar following. Density was driven by three things: money, money, and more money to be made from building condos. Yes, a streetcar is a great way to get people around within a dense environment, but only because the density is already there. Putting a network of streetcards throughout low-density areas such as most of Vancouver (where I now live) would not lead to density or the benefits of density across most of its reach, even if that was desireable.

EngineerScotty


How about upzoning the single-family parts of Broadway (between Arbutus and the reserve lands)--and invalidating any existing covenants that would have the same affect as current zoning?

Obviously, there are lot of rich folk living in the area who don't want residential towers going up where they live; and prefer that the law prevents such. But if you are gonna build new transit infrastructure (LRT or SkyTrain), increasing the density along it makes sense.

Alex_AniPac


"[Railroads will] only encourage the common people to move about needlessly.” ~ The Duke of Wellington, 1835


An old quote, but surprisingly on topic.

Ron


If people don't care about speed (or their time):
- why is there road rage?
- why do people hate waiting in line at the grocery store?
- why do people hate being placed "on hold" when calling customer service?
- what's wrong with having to wander the store to find a sales clerk?

Alex_AniPac

@ EngineerScotty

Agree with you, but it is politically impossible.

That area is also known as Vancouver - Point Grey.

PDF -> http://bit.ly/aHvCK7

Guess who the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey is?

The Honourable Gordon Campbell himself - Premier of British Columbia.


Ted King

San Francisco could provide some answers to this debate. The recent splitting of the adult Fast Pass (A-pass) into a $60 M-pass (SFMuni-only) and a $70 A-pass (SFMuni + BART w/in SF) will provide a way of counting those who are willing to pay a premium for mobility.

Two easily recognized nodes in SF are Balboa Park BART Stn. (in between CCSF and Mission + Geneva) and Third + Market / Mission (edge of the Financial District, near shopping + convention center). These two nodes are connected by BART (15 min. ride), LRV's (35 min. ride), and bus (40 min.[any+14L]/45 min.[8X] ride). The average wait times are similar for all three modes (5 mins. day / 10 mins. night). Also, there are short walks at both ends of the run depending on stop location.

The interesting thing about the connection between those two nodes is that speed isn't the only factor. The transit choices use five different corridors :
Ingleside / West Portal / Market St. ("K" LRV);
Glen Park / Church St. / Market St. ("J" LRV);
Mission St. (14L);
Geneva / Sunnydale / SOMA (8X); and
Glen Park / Central Mission / Market St. (BART).

So if you have specialty shopping, school (CCSF's Mission Campus is near 24th + Mission), or other needs you might pick a slower corridor so you can make stops along the way. The poster above ("alexjonlin") who called for a blend of fast and slow transit can look to SF for multiple examples of how such a blend can work. The city has both rail (BART + LRV + others) and bus (local, limited, and express). When the Muni Metro started running under Market St. there was a huge spike in ridership at Duboce + Church due to the fast run downtown in the subway. The spike eased when the other LRV lines went underground.

The beauty of city living is that one can have small-town-like neighborhoods and variety a short-to-medium ride (time / distance) away. An all-slow transit model discourages people from visiting other parts of the city. An all-fast model would break the bank. The hybrid model allows for both local-level services and city-wide services (main library, big theaters, big shopping, CBD, etc.) that require a certain critical mass.

P.S. My thanks to "Alex AniPac" for the Iron Duke quote. Keep in mind that he could be very hide-bound at times.

Ron

BTW - in Vancouver in the streetcar days - even then there was an acknowledgement of the modal split between long distance travel and local travel.

Local travel was served by the streetcars (smaller single car trolleys).

Long distance travel was served by the Interurban streetcars (larger, multiple car railcars which shared routes with freight services).

mezzanine

This is another research article by Patrick Condon that got a lot of media a few years ago. It's the one where he compares skytrain to tram to LRT to a toyota prius. I would consider his methodology to be opaque, but this is only my opinion. If anything, i think he is making the "skytrain isn't green because it runs empty" arguement, in light of the freqency skytrain has.

http://www.sxd.sala.ubc.ca/8_research/sxd_FRB07Transport.pdf

[Direct quote]" Using full external costs, the Toyota Prius scores best per passenger-mile with a total cost of $1.09 followed by modern tram at $1.23. Even with negligible energy costs, Skytrain is by far the most expensive at $2.66 per passenger-mile."

I was further dismayed in that the local media took this and ran with it. In all fairness, I think he was not advocating giving a prius to every UBC student, but the media likes a headline and a soundbite, and Professor Condon seemed obliging.

this is from the Tyee, an online news/opinion page in vancouver:

http://thetyee.ca/Views/2008/12/16/Prius/

"Patrick Condon, senior researcher at the Design Centre for Sustainability at UBC, has run further numbers and believes he has a more sensible plan.

Instead of building that train, you could give every new UBC undergrad the keys to their very own Prius automobile. Year after year. Forever.

That's right. As Condon calculates in a new study, you'd start by putting the $2.8-billion price of the train into a trust that earns six per cent interest. That would generate $168 million a year -- about enough to give every full-time undergrad entering UBC a basic $25,000 hybrid vehicle."

Is that advocating for sustainability?

Eric L

Condon's ideal city isn't a city at all but a walkable small town. The vision seems to be that we design the city so that you'll stay in your neighborhood and I'll stay in mine. This is a vision of a whole bunch of small towns that just happen to be next to eachother for no good reason. Really, what is the point of a city at all?

I think cities can be wonderful places and there are synergies that come from connecting lots of people to eachother, but that means connecting people to all of the city, not just their immediate vicinity.

EngineerScotty


Two questions come to mind:

1) Where are UBC students gonna park all those Prii?

2) What about folks who wanna get around who aren't UBC frosh, and thus don't benefit from a shiny new Prius?

CroMagnon

I really must say, it's truly unbelievable that transit supporters have to be having this fight today. It's such a waste of time (no pun).

The reason why most people who have cars drive to most transit accessible places most of the time is because transit is too slow and too infrequent. Period.

I hate saying this, but a lot of these new urbanish type planners are rather religious in their application about how something should be with overuse of normative reasoning. This smacks of religion as religion is about acceptance on faith with the easing of cognitive dissonance predicated on certainty of the doctrine, etc. There is no room for revision or modification based on new evidence.

Not only that, but many urban planners don't consider much math in their proclamations of how to do things in transportation. And many of these same planners don't want to know or understand math when or if the subject is broached. The basics of transportation is pretty much physics and math. Once you figure that out, then you can analyze, create, integrate, etc. all the subjective and human behavioral contexts and interactions. You can't do it well in reverse.

ws

Ah, Condon used the Cox argument about price and buying everyone a new car. The only way to get press time about transit issues is to make absurd arguments, apparently.

metasyntactic

I don't normally comment, but this is an interesting discussion to me as a student at UBC. I don't think Condon's ideal city is going to materialize around here in the near future. In regards to UBC's commuter student population, the admin realizes this is a problem, which is why there is a movement to build more student housing on the campus (e.g. with infill development). However, construction takes time and UBC doesn't have the funds to transform from a commuter campus to a self-contained community overnight. It's also not clear how dense Metro Vancouver would allow the university to become (a residence tower on campus was forced to downsize to preserve views). In addition, even if more housing is built, not all students want to or are capable of living on campus.

On the other hand, what if we tried? With enough provincial funds, UBC could probably house many more students on campus and reduce some strain on the transit system. However, does that investment make sense when rapid transit would benefit more neighborhoods? Additionally, a denser university would reduce the commuting population, but students still need to make trips off of campus.

Forcing students to live on campus is also difficult: not all students can afford to live in the campus housing or in the fairly expensive neighborhoods around it. e.g. some students commute from their parents' homes. As Tessa and others alluded to, higher-education shouldn't be limited by mobility.

anonymouse

I wanted to comment, but it seems that pretty much all my points have already been made. I'd just like to add that Condon's proposal for slow transit would in the end do a lot to destroy community. I think it's reasonable to assume that you can only develop a sense of community with some degree of residential stability, that is, people have to stay around long enough to care about the place. And rapid transportation, whether by car or by transit, is absolutely crucial in maintaining residential stability, because it allows people to change their jobs but keep their houses. If transportation were slow and only (geographically) short commutes were feasible, then when you lose your job and find another one on the other side of town, you have to move. And this gets even worse when two people in a household are working.

MB

@ dejv: "There seem to be two cost-effective ways to implement fast transit:
* build fully grade-separated rapid transit line, preferably driverless SkyTrain
* calm auto traffic on broadway and build at-grade light rail with widely spaced stops. To maintain permeability of ROW for pedestrians, maximum speeds must be kept below 55-60 km/h (35-40 mph), stops have to be therefore widely spaced (750 m / 2450 ft or bigger) and pedestrian crossings must be tweaked to force people look in direction of oncoming train where speeds are high (example, station, ped & auto crossing where speeds are low; this particular street was converted to this shape from 4-lane artery)"

The problem with Broadway is that there is an extraordinary density of existing pedestrian crossings. Every single one of the 23 intersections in Central Broadway is currently signalized (activated by pedestrians and cyclists) and are spaced often less than 200m apart. The vast majority of the remaining intersections are signalized as well.

I looked at the Google Streetview you supplied of the tram line crossing and cringe at the potential for deaths and injuries to occur every year if that design was applied to Broadway in Vancouver.

Alon Levy

WS: you're reversing causation here. It's not that Cox makes this argument and therefore it's wrong; what's happening is that this argument is wrong and therefore Cox makes it. Hacks don't make an argument false just by using it, but they're likely to use false arguments.

Specifically: so far, the cost of the Expo and Millennium lines has been $10,000 per weekday rider, in 2009 dollars. The Canada line is at $20,000/rider, but it's going down rapidly as the line attracts more riders; it's likely to settle at or slightly above $10,000/rider.

The only projections that say the Broadway line will cost much more than this come from Condon himself and do not follow any standard methodology. If the line were fully underground, it would cost $1.8 billion at Copenhagen Metro costs.

Even the discount rate Condon is using is extremely nonstandard. 6% per annum is what you get investing in high-risk assets; a more normal discount rate is 4%. Now, add the fact that Priuses depreciate over 10-15 years and rapid transit tunnels haven't depreciated in their 150-year history...

CroMagnon

^I believe the FTA (and most other cost analysts) still use an absurd 7% social discount rate. I find the entire concept as applied to public construction projects ludicrous.

foo

I find it ironic that Condon and similar urbanists propose a sustainable city (small, local, hard to move long distances) that relies on a technology that can only be built in an environment that is relatively large and has a way to move people and goods long distances very efficiently.

I'd love to see how much the people along Broadway or W41st would welcome a steel smelter, a streetcar factory and a sufficiently sized power station in their midst.

Or is it only university professors and highly paid professional elites that are allowed to live in style on Vancouver's west side, and the plebs that make their lifestyle possible can hang out at the other end of a 2 hour commute?

MB

I have some experience in construction and can say with assurance that you can reduce the amount of Portland cement (the largest GHG emitting component) in concrete by up to 30% with the use of waste products from industry, such as fly ash from coal-fired power plants. Granted, coal combustion emits more GHG and other pollutants than the natural gas used by cement making, but you still end up with a significant net reduction in emissions.

http://www.ecosmartconcrete.com/index.cfm

Moreover, as the international economy decarbonizes more over the coming decades, technology such as large scale electric induction kilns powered by clean hydro for making concrete and steel will likely become cheaper and more widespread.

In one project we also displaced about 30% of the sand aggregate with HardCem, a glass-like waste product from the smelter at Trail, BC., which otherwise would have sat in a big pile leaching into to the nearby Columbia River. Our engineer calculated that the concrete was over 60% harder as the result of these measures.

The 10 million car trip equivalent quoted for the amount of concrete-sourced emissions in a Broadway subway is for practical purposes irrelevant when you consider the 100+ year life of the project -- extended even longer with measures such as above materials engineering -- and the incalculable number of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions it will prevent from being injected into the atmosphere by providing the best alternative for the UBC car commuter for generations.

This is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of building cities with more resiliency and sustainability to meet the challenges coming full bore (pun intended) in the next decade (peak oil) and the century ahead (climate change). Condon himself says, It's about building sustainable cities.

MB

Livable Blog Censorship (Livable Regions Coalition, Vancouver)

An attempt to post the following comments about the Broadway transit issue on the Livable Blog was made three times over two days. The comments were removed, though they did not violate their posting policy (typically “stay on topic, keep it clean”) in any way.

This to me is outright censorship and very anti-democratic and should be challenged.

http://www.livableregion.ca/blog/blogs/index.php
=============================

DEAR EDITOR: This is my third attempt in two days to post the comments below . I sincerely hope that the “posting irregularities” that occurred on 10.04.21 were the result of a technical glitch, not because the editor deletes messages that challenge assertions made by Livable members. The Coalition deserves better.

***

It would do us all a favour to eliminate bias when having fun with numbers.

It was stated above that it costs $25 per trip to run the Canada Line, and $50 per trip for a Broadway subway, and by extension these systems are “too expensive” to consider and should be binned prior to completion of detailed planning. No stats were offered for the B-Line, comparable BRT, LRT or private cars.

Let’s take these figures at face value, and let me offer another set of numbers. Using the same logic, one can justify the continuance of rampant idiotic car-dependency because it costs taxpayers “only” $7.40 per day per car in subsidies (source LRSP docs stating the subsidy is $2,700 per car per annum, divided by 365 days). This is above what drivers willingly pay privately to run their vehicles.

Do I hear anyone out there demanding we cancel transit projects and build more road space because it “costs less”? Of course not. There are just too many cars already.

It’s obvious transit has far more value to the community and the economy than a simplistic per rider cost calculated in 2010 for a project that is expected to be around in 2110. Vancouver will supersede Montreal as Canada’s second largest city by mid-century at the current growth rates. These projects will have 70 years of amortization-free service during a period when at least two million new residents will arrive in the region, and ridership will look far different than it does today. I suggest they will eventually make a profit from farebox revenues, especially Broadway with potential huge increases in ridership.

Put another way, a full-scale subway to UBC with all the bells & whistles will have a one time base cost approximating 10 months of the annual regional car subsidy. The debate about costs between subways, LRT and BRT have been made in the absence of meaningful leadership from the federal government, a situation unlike every other industrialized nation. Of course such projects are expensive when couched in terms of limited local funding and absolutely anemic funding by the province. There is lots of money to build subways, LRT and BRT where most suited, but the senior governments choose to spend it on freeways, Big Oil, GM (which thankfully paid it all back) and in making the military a source of hard power.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with light rail when it’s designed with the highest safety and design standards, and has appropriate urban design measures — except on Broadway which is a unique corridor with regional transit significance, and dense crossing spacing with significant pedestrian and bike traffic (almost every intersection is currently signalized), hence high accident risk on the surface (no dedicated rail median), or the blocking of 30 out of 38 intersections (with dedicated median). This corridor needs something more efficient and safe.

Regarding urban design, human scaled urbanism and a beautiful streetscape treatment with an emphasis on increasing pedestrian space by taking away road space is entirely possible with a subway project as it is with Eurotrams. Transit tech alone does not dictate an urban design response without an accompanying urban design policy.

Jarrett

I am not censoring comments, but cannot control glitches in Typepad. If you have a comment rejected, please (a) email me the comment and (b) email me a screenshot showing the error message. Thx Jarrett

mike0234

It's not you, it's the livable region blog.

MB, what if the tram goes 80 km/h on the segregated rail corridor between Cambie and Arbutus and no faster than 50 km/h on Broadway? The safety issue seems more applicable to faster trains running 80 to 90 km/h on the light rail systems in Portland (MAX) and Calgary than to tramways that move at the speed of regular traffic. These slower systems rarely have fenced medians, and when they do they have block-spaced pedestrian crossings through fenced medians (eg. Berlin).

Why is this more an issue on Broadway, which has long blocks, than on north-south street that have short blocks? Those north-south streets will have many more crossings than this east-west street.

EngineerScotty

It sounds like MB is complaining about censorship on a BC transit blog, not here.

voony

yes, it is censorship of a Vancouver organization's blog where Patrick Condon seems to have an open table: for people interested. here are some screen copy of removed comments about it:
http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=162479&page=159

voony

Metasyntactic make a couple of interesting points, and I have some questions for him...

"the admin realizes this is a problem, which is why there is a movement to build more student housing on the campus (e.g. with infill development)."

Question:
it looks that is done to mitigate the lack of access to the campus.
so the GHG not generated by tunnel construction is by housing(*) used roughly 9 month per years...
Is it a good trade-off?

"
However, construction takes time and UBC doesn't have the funds to transform from a commuter campus to a self-contained community overnight."

Question:
is the self contained community for student a good thing?
We all know he model of student town, and we can recognize some good think to bring student on a campus but nowadays a huge ratio of young are studying on campus.
that means, other communities are loosing their most socializing and creative population segment.
Is it a good trade off?

(*) Couldn't be better to keep student in their community, where they live with their family wherever possible instead to nuclearize the family in different dwelling (and I remind an australian study emphasing the GHG cost of dwelling)?

At the end I have also noted the GHG numbers from tunnel boring equivalent at 10 millions of car trip:

Honestly: Nothing to justify to get nervous. such tunnel could attract 10 millions new riders a year (it is the case for the recently opened canada line) so the GHG balance could become positive only after the first year of operation!

(and one will note that 10 millions of car trip of 15km, is also equivalent to the lifespan of 1000 cars, which construction/recycling is now considered to generate as much as GHG as their use)...

micasa

What does the venerable Jane Jacobs have to say about the notion of a "city of neighbourhoods"?

"Whatever city neighborhoods may be, or may not be, and whatever usefulness they may have, or may be coaxed into having, their qualities cannot work at cross-purposes to thoroughgoing city mobility and fluidity of use, without economically weakening the city of which they are a part. The lack of either economic or social self-containment is natural and necessary to city neighborhoods - simply because they are parts of cities."

Jacobs is describing what does, and always has, made cities "tick". To be against intra-urban mobility is to be against the very proposition of the city. I don't think we can afford to let the threat of climate change, peak oil, or whatever, destroy that. We may need radically different, more sustainable cities in the future if we are going to survive, but rest assured, we will still need cities. Not agglomerations of inward focused neighbourhoods, but cities.

I'm not suggesting that the debate over transit technologies in this particular case ought to be closed. But I am suggesting that Condon's particular argument for surface rail - that it encourages local living in a neighbourhood setting - is fundamentally anti-urban. A better argument, and one that actually addresses the urban mobility issue, is that perhaps surface rail is a cheaper solution that can be designed "fast enough" to allow those neighbourhoods on the West Side (including UBC) to cohere with the rest of the region without the necessity of cars (and vice-versa). But that's not the argument as presented.

Paul C

"If people don't care about speed (or their time):
- why is there road rage?
- why do people hate waiting in line at the grocery store?
- why do people hate being placed "on hold" when calling customer service?
- what's wrong with having to wander the store to find a sales clerk?"

The basic simple answer is that we all have a limited amount of time. If we had all the time in the world and we never got old and death wasn't around and we never had to be anywhere at any specific time. Then speed would not be a factor. But because time is worth so much to most people. They will always choose the fastest mode of transport that they can to get to where they want to go.

"Condon's ideal city isn't a city at all but a walkable small town. The vision seems to be that we design the city so that you'll stay in your neighborhood and I'll stay in mine. This is a vision of a whole bunch of small towns that just happen to be next to eachother for no good reason. Really, what is the point of a city at all?"

That is the same feeling I get as well. It is as if he envisions a world. Where I live in my neighbourhood and everything I want will be there. You live in your neighbourhood and everything you want will be there. We won't have the need to go to each others neighbourhoods. Now activities like shopping that might be possible and I use the term might be very loosely here. But what are the chances that the place where you work will be in your neighbourhood and same with me in my neighbourhood. Also in this world it would seem that neither you would come to my place or I to your place to socialize. Basically all our friends would be in the same neighbourhood. I realize I'm taking it to the extreme and nothing is stopping people from getting to where they want. But if I was going somewhere and I had a choice of driving or taking a street car. And driving was faster by a wide margin. I'm going to drive.

Steven Dale

Great article, excellent analysis. You should look at Toronto's experience with streetcars on Spadina Avenue. In the late 90's, bus service was replaced with streetcars in a semi-dedicated right of way. They're slow and unreliable with frequent stops. A dozen years later, Spadina is dying and businesses are closing shop. I'm not saying that this slow and painful death is due to the streetcars. What I am saying is that the causes of redevelopment are more numerous than just slapping in some rails. Spadina's an excellent example of this.

dejv

@MB: with few details done right, such crossing is safe even when heavily used:

* keep reasonably low speeds. The line I showed has maximum of 60 km/h, with typical speeds around 50 km/h because of stop spacing and schedule slack. It still allows average speeds around 25 km/h with average stop spacing around 450-500 m (30 km/h needs at least 750 m)

* keep minimum headways of 3-4 min (you can add capacity by making trains longer). Pedestrians then have a lot of time with absoulutely clear tracks

* keep good visibility around track, so driver can see all people around crossing in advance (the hedge does bad job because it's overgrown in my example)

* force people to look in direction of oncoming train by crossing design (those railings do that efficiently). I know about one death caused by screwing up these two details

Placing stops to most trafficked intersections also helps, by reducing speeds there and also increasing by ridership.

Lauri Kangas

"Transit designed for short trips is competing with walking and cycling. Transit designed for longer trips within an urban region is competing with freeways."

Sounds rather extremist to me. French trams run at around 18 - 25 km/h. Try walking that fast. You'll have trouble even cycling that fast in urban environments. Of course bike trips have the advantage of being door to door, so there is clear overlap with biking, but fast biking is not for everyone. Are we going to leave large amounts of people to the car because in theory they could be cycling if they are fit and willing?

Competing with freeways is also a tricky notion. It is often impossible to be faster than a non-stop mostly freeway trip. Why concentrate on a part of the market where it is really hard or impossible to beat the car? I find this analogous to city centres trying to compete with out of town developments by building lots of parking. It is fighting a losing game by definition.

I'm not saying speed does not matter. The speed for the whole trip including connections and frequency is generally the most important single factor. But there are many other factors which are significant when combined and should not be ignored. There is also a whole range of speed options available for different purposes.

Goals related to sustainable communities are also significant, but very tricky. I agree with Patrick Condon in that we should not promote long trips in theory, but I'm also aware that we are in competition with cars, which will always be worse in this respect.

As I come from an European perspective there is another area I would like to highlight: Local and regional railways are abundant in Europe. They usually cater for fast regional trips and usually provide acceptable frequency thoughout the day (unlike US commuter rail).

Many of the French and German cities that seemingly only have light rail / trams actually have extensive local rail as well. This means that they have two rail systems catering for two different segments: Fast regional trips and medium to slow speed urban area trips. This is one major reason why surface trams can be attractive as the long trips are already catered for. This leaves flexibility for designing tramways partially as urban improvement projects.

Even with this flexibility new tram systems in Europe are not as slow as US streetcars. The 18 - 25 km/h I quoted above is typical. Not competing with walking is a big reason for this. French trams always run in dedicated lanes and usually have full signal priority so they are reliable as well. Taking city space from cars and returning it to soft modes is a key design factor. Tram streets are usually very walkable so it is easy to reach a stop even if stops are about 500 metres apart.

So what you really need is two different systems or lines. Because you probably can't affort both at the same time, I think the question comes down to which one you should start with. Trying to serve both purposes with one line is occasionally a possibility, but runs a real risk of a compromise which doesn't serve either purpose very well.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Lauri. Yes, the European "tram" actually spans quite a range from very slow things tangled in traffic, as in Prague, to the recent projects around Paris, which would be called "light rail" in North America. I expanded on that distinction, and why it matters at least in North American thinking, here:

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/03/streetcars-vs-light-rail-is-there-a-difference.html

dejv

Note that even Prague trams, really slow in cramped city center, pick up speed when they leave it and get to fast routes in newer parts of city (note the line number on both pics).

MB

@ Jarrett re: censorship ... with apologies for going slightly off topic.

To your great credit you do not eliminate comments that are contrary to your own ideas and opinions. You allowed my posting above that was deleted three times by the Livable Blog in Vancouver, presumably because it was critical of P. Condon's assertions (he is a member of the Livable Regions Coalition), and because they are intolerant of the suggestion that a subway on Broadway could work well.

In no way was it intended to imply that you are the one doing the censoring.

I am reminded of Stephen Harper's government which actively censors and/or muzzles climate scientists who work for Environment Canada.

MB

@ Laurie. WRT to the question of Vancouver's Broadway, in my opinion the slow neighbourhood + fast regional transit option can be achieved with a high capacity subway with high frequency service (1 km station spacing except for Central Broadway with 500m spacing) and keeping the existing #9 electric trolley bus with a two-block (+/- 400m) stop spacing.

MB

@ micasa: "Jacobs is describing what does, and always has, made cities "tick". To be against intra-urban mobility is to be against the very proposition of the city. I don't think we can afford to let the threat of climate change, peak oil, or whatever, destroy that. We may need radically different, more sustainable cities in the future if we are going to survive, but rest assured, we will still need cities. Not agglomerations of inward focused neighbourhoods, but cities."

An excellent comment. When Jacobs lived in NYC she fought Robert Moses' plan to obliterate swaths of the city for freeways. She won, but not before the great Penn Station was demolished. Her aim wasn't on killing mobility; if it was she would have fought against the NYC subway system as well. She was fighting against the anti-urbanism / pro-suburbanism culture of the day.

BTW, Jacobs liked Vancouver and praised it's creation of high-density neighbourhoods on the downtown peninsula. Her son, Ned, lives here ... actually, I think he lives in my neighbourhood.

Samuel Scheib

The idea that short trips are better than long trips reminds me of this old episode of Sex and the City where a character is derided as Manhattan Man because he never leaves Manhattan--or as he puts it "Everything I need is in Manhattan." For most people, seeing other things and other places is what makes life interesting. Having strong urban neighborhoods is essential as is getting around them (which can and maybe should be done by bike/ped) but people want to see other places, eat in restaurants in different part of town or view the architecture of another quadrant.

On a more practical level, people get in relationships and move in with one another. Even if one person in the couple has a job near home, how often does the second? Cross town trips are always going to be a necessity and they need to be fast. This is a wonderful discussion. Great stuff Human Transit.

anonymouse

Adding to the list of great things about cities: what about minority interests? What if there's something you like that only 0.01% of the population likes? Well, in Vancouver, you can find 100 people who share your interest, and you can get together easily enough thanks to rapid transit. Of course, some would say that you could just move to a neighborhood to be conveniently close but what if you have another equally rare interest, that you don't share with anyone from the first group? People do all sorts of things, and while you can imagine arranging the neighborhood around yourself such that all your needs are met without having to travel far, it's impossible to do that for everyone at the same time. Even in Manhattan.

EngineerScotty


The whole reason neighborhoods like Vancouver's West End are so desirable (and expensive) isn't their transit access; it's their other amenities. The waterfront, lots of fine dining, proximity to numerous cultural attractions, proximity to employment, etc. Likewise, UBC is an amenity to those who study or work there.

While it's good to focus on "twenty minute neighborhoods", and arrange things so you don't have to drive five miles (or ride the bus for a similar distance) to buy a loaf of bread or a cup of coffee or visit the bank--this obviously doesn't apply to resources or amenities of city-wide scale.

Part of the price of living in a downtown area--of living where the action is--is the need to accept folks from other parts of town--and the infrastructure they need to get there effectively. Now there's a limit--destructive infrastructure like freeways shouldn't be encouraged, and even excessive transit links to and from a busy place might rob it of the local residents needed to maintain vitality; goodness knows there are plenty of decaying downtowns which are testimony to that fact. But the opposite take--that if you want to enjoy downtown you need to live there, and if you can't afford it--tough for you--is equally obnoxious. Many of the city-scale destinations need access and patronage by ALL a city's residents to thrive; not just the downtown condo set.

Ericorozco

If you want to encourage people to see buses as alternates to streetcar, it will take more than simply improving the vehicle and stop infrastructure. I would suggest taking cues from streetcar projects (or build off them). The streetcar's examples for city imaging and life-style identity, for legibility/wayfinding/information advantages (which the tracks undeniably help provide), and their integration with land and streetscape development, would transfer great into bus corridor planning, if you could somehow get the transit authority to see it that way. :)

Urban corridors with enhanced bus service should be treated more like streetcar projects, IMHO. As in streetcar corridors, enhanced bus should also be allowed to argue for creating ped overlay districts. These ped overlay districts are just as critical as the actual streetcar in helping create those walkable, bike-able urban districts we hope to see. For one, streetcars allow planning entities to argue for lessening parking minimums, allowing developers to develop/redevelop tighter (corridor) parcels and not depend on land assemblage so much to park their use. What streetcars do with codes is important. The code is also a necessary tool in creating "short-trip" environments, and it should be transferable to bus transit if you can demonstrate that the enhanced service will replace enough car trips.

Business & Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives

Hear Hear to Dr Condon - finally a word of sanity in a "transit skytrain mad world".

Remember the Port Authority of New York and the Brooklyn Express Way and the disruption, nay destruction of whole communities?

Now lets look at Vancouver. Skytrain is an expensive solution. As a former Rapid Transit Planner we recommended a light rail system that is flexible, reliable and affordable. Instead we have an urban monster of concrete, tunnels and limited capacity at a cost that is now approaching in excess of $10.0 Billion. The proposed extension of the Millenium Line estimated at a cost in excess of $2.8 billion does not serve the transit needs of Vancouver. Limited station access makes this an exclusive line for UBC and VCC and serves the rush hour student population crowd, while the rest of the time the line is under used.

Skytrain is an expensive solution at a cost of $12 per transit user mile compared to a surface light rail - European street car / tram solution at a cost of a little over $3.00 per passenger mile.

And as to travel time - the difference is small lets say 10 minutes or less. Indeed the proposed plans suggest that the travel time difference between Skytrain and Light Rail - surface light/tram system - would be 10 minutes. If Vancouver wants to go skytrain route then we can say that the City can pride itself on being the the host of the most expensive 10 minutes ride in the world - save 10 minutes at a price of $2.8 Billion.

If you believe in a sustainable, affordable, people friendly and accessible transit solutions then Skytain is not your option. Vancouver should take a lesson from the European experience if it wants to become a show case for sustainability. Expensive mega projects are not sustainable for the small population Vancouver has. It only drives up the taxes, which makes Vancouver further a City of unaffordability.

If one believes in a transit solution that strengthens the urban residential and small business enterprises one needs stations in walking distance then the skytrain type of system is not your answer

MB

@ Business. If you propose a slow tram project with the current #9 two-block bus stop spacing, then some critics will counter that you'll be spending a billion bucks for little if any gain in mobility. Why not just save our money and stick to buses in that case?

If you propose putting faster light rail in a dedicated median, then you'll be seriously eroding the ability of pedestrians to cross the street at the vast majority of intersections, let alone putting them in danger at crossings. Foot traffic is very important to Broadway businesses.

Broadway has BOTH regional and local significance, and the transit solution must consider both equally.

CLC

@ Business "If Vancouver wants to go skytrain route then we can say that the City can pride itself on being the the host of the most expensive 10 minutes ride in the world"

- I can't stand this kind of lies written by someone claimed to be transit planner. The most expensive 10 minutes ride for a metro system belongs to some Asian cities, as of now the title would go to Hong Kong West Island Line extension (HK$5.1 billion per km)

MB

It'll be a lot more than 10 minutes difference on a typical trip to UBC between a milk run tram and RRT.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Eric Orozco. A lot of people want to upgrade the look and feel of bus service in exactly the ways you're suggesting, and to insist that such service can drive land use intensification. It's what my work in Canberra was all about...

http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/long-term-transit-plans-ask-the-real-questions.html

http://www.humantransit.org/2009/08/environmentalist-critiques-of-strategic-transit-planning.html

Ironically, the strong emotional attachment that many politicians have toward streetcars makes them opponents of exactly those schemes, or at least in favor of starving them of energy.

anonymouse

The problem with proposals to fix things by improving the "look and feel of bus service" is that they often end up getting implemented as "improving the look of the bus", and rather than doing anything useful (off-board fare collection, well-defined networks, consistent service, better wayfinding), they take a bus and paint it red in hopes that it will fool people into thinking it goes faster. Or buy special "stylized" curvy "BRTV"s (Bus Rapid Transit Vehicles), which are basically the same old bus, but slower and with more plastic.

Business & Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives

Can Vancouver really afford a skytrain for a 10 minute saving, while schools and hospitals are under funded, while we have to spend $600 Million on a new stadium roof, while teachers are being laid off, while we have racked up another $6 Billion debt on the olympics. The answer is NO.

Transit must life within its means - and a surface tram system - not the old street cars - provide a highly efficient high capacity transportation solution with minimum impact on the community and that can be expanded into other major transit rider corridors without spending another couple of Billions. And we have not even talked about the financing costs that is associated with the current Skytrain systems and future Skytrain systems. What are we thinking of here in BC.

Do we want to have transit govern land use in Vancouver? Do we want to sign over taxation property taxes to the Province ?

Alex_AniPac

@ Business - not sure where you got that $600 million figure. The figure I see is $458 million for the roof and BC place upgrades.

I have seen that $6 billion figure. Its been floating around in anti olympic circles since early 2009(?). But that includes the Canada line construction, the sea to sky highway construction ($4 billion for those). And at any rate they have already been constructed and budgeted for.

Now, a RRT system will have a price tag attached to it. But crying poverty the way you are is over the top. Compared to our Southern neighbours our fiscal situation, both Provincially and Federally, is actually pretty good. We aren't Greece, or even California. We can still afford to make investments in the future.

Besides which Vancouver itself is growing very steadily. It isn't a city in decline like Cleavland OH, or Windsor Ont.

Lastly, where did you get this 10 minute difference figure? It came out of thin air.

No one knows for sure what the exact time differences are going to be, but at least some people try to use facts and figures to back up what they say. Paul Hillsdon for example. Take a look here: http://bit.ly/bRJR0J

He took current skytrain service times, took the slowest, most conservative skytrain speed, and used it to calculate a service time down Broadway to UBC. again, look at his post here:
http://bit.ly/bRJR0J

The time he gets is 10 minutes. Now Jarrett Walker, on this very blog, said that Light Rail isn't much faster than a good bus service. Now the Limited-stop express bus that currently runs to UBC, the 99, takes about 30 minutes now. So using those rough figures, the time saving is 20 minutes. Not 10. And someone coming from the eastern part of the city wouldn't have to transfer. That in itself is a huge time savings. Of course, these are just educated guesses. But at least attempting to do so with numbers to back them up.

Alon Levy

@ Business: the cost of Skytrain construction so far has been about $3 billion for the Expo and Millennium Lines and $2 billion for the Canada Line. But sure, let's blow the number up by a factor of 2.

Here's a question for the gallery: is there anything about Condon that suggests he's more truthful than Wendell Cox?

voony

On Internet no-one knows if you are a dog or not, but some writing can give you some hint:

@business... written under the BARSTA organization name claims to be himself a "former Rapid Transit Planner".

BARSTA view on skytrain is that basically, it increases crime and congestion (sic), and is associated with all sort of negative cliches you can think of, as you will be able to read here:
http://westvancouver.ca/uploadedFiles/Your_Government/Agendas_and_Minutes/2009/October/09oct19-cc17.pdf

BARSTA members view on streetcar is than it can be built in 3 weeks, and is "homey", as you will be able to read here: http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/TransLink+looks+rapid+transit+options+Broadway+corridor/2940318/story.html

Do you need more?


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